After another week off due to complications with COVID-19, the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers (2-1 overall, 2-1 B1G) are expected to finally be back in action this Saturday against the No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers.
Per custom, each week we give an overview of how the upcoming opponent has fared during the season. Without further ado, here is a rundown of the Hoosiers.
Results thus far:
Indiana enters the game second in the Big Ten East with a 5-1 overall record (5-1 B1G) through six games.
- Win vs. Penn State 36-35
- Win at Rutgers 37-21
- Win vs. Michigan 38-21
- Win at Michigan State 24-0
- Loss at Ohio State 42-35
- Win vs. Maryland 27-11
The big news out of Bloomington following the win over Maryland this past weekend, surrounded a knee injury to starting quarterback Michael Penix, Jr.
Reports have now surfaced that the electric left-hander will reportedly miss the remainder of the season due to the injury, a huge blow to the Hoosier offensive attack.
Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. will miss the rest of this season with a torn ACL, coach Tom Allen announced. pic.twitter.com/uOu9nWAwSq— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 30, 2020
From the coach:
Tom Allen’s most recent press conference was heavily laden with discussions surrounding the quarterback position.
The head man seems confident in the offense without Penix however, stating:
Penix torn acl. Allen confirms. "Just tough. I really feel for him. Bottom line is setbacks and adversity is part of life. How you respond defines who you are.' #iufb— PaulGable (@PaulEGable) November 30, 2020
The injured ACL is on the same knee that Penix Jr. had previous torn as a freshman, making the recovery process a bit more tricky moving forward for the redshirt sophomore signal-caller.
Status of the offense:
The Indiana offense shouldn’t look too dissimilar without Penix under center. The Hoosiers will rely on former 4-star transfer Jack Tuttle to keep things rolling. If that name sounds familiar, Tuttle was a highly sought after Army All-American recruit for the Badgers before he ultimately chose to play for Utah after Wisconsin accepted the early commitment of Ben Bryant, who later decommitted to make way for Chase Wolf.
Recruiting tangent out of the way, Tuttle can still push the ball down the field with solid arm strength, something that Indiana has relied upon this season. In limited action, Tuttle is a perfect 5-of-5 for 31 yards and no touchdowns. It is not fair to expect the redshirt sophomore to replicate the nearly 275 yards and two touchdowns a game pace that Penix was on, but Tuttle will have plenty of weapons to throw to.
The Hoosiers have done a really great job of developing pass catchers under Tom Allen. This season, Indiana has two receivers with over 30 catches, as both Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor are explosive weapons in the passing game. After leading the team in 2019 with over 1,000 yards receiving, Philyor has somewhat taken a backseat to Fryfogle this season, who is a definitive deep threat with a 19.76 yards per reception average. The senior duo is a big reason for the team’s offensive success this season, and the Wisconsin secondary will be challenged by them.
The two other threats in the passing game for Indiana to keep an eye on are tight end Peyton Hendershot and Miles Marshall. Hendershot is one of the better tight ends in the conference in the red zone, and is a sure handed target. The youngster of the group, Marshall is average over 50 yards per game in the five games he has played, and is another big 6-foot-4 target.
The emergence of the passing game for Indiana has been essential this season with some of the struggles that the Hoosiers have had on the ground. Stevie Scott leads the team in yards with 405 on a 3.4 yards per carry average. Scott is a bigger bruising back at over 230 pounds, but as a team Indiana ranks No. 118 in rushing yards with barely over 100 per game. Without Penix Jr. throwing the ball around, Indiana might turn to the wildcat a bit more to bolster the rushing attack, something that popped up against Maryland last week.
Along the offensive line, Indiana has had to do some shuffling given injuries and other issues, but the group is solid in pass protection. The unit has only allowed five sacks this season, and with an inexperienced quarterback under center this week, they will be counted on more than ever. As previously noted, the running attack is not nearly as formidable, but 1.25 sacks allowed per game is good.
Status of the defense:
The Indiana defense has been strong this season, primarily thriving on creating chaos.
In terms of total defense (No. 39 nationally), rushing defense (No. 39), and passing defense (No. 59) the numbers are not eye popping. However, the Hoosiers rank No. 1 in the Big Ten for both turnover margin and in quarterback sacks.
As a result, the Indiana defense has put the offense in plus territory frequently, and have subsequently held opponents to only 21.7 points per game this year.
Schematically, Indiana runs a 4-2-5 look, with four down lineman and five players roaming in the secondary under Kane Wommack’s tutelage. That introduction is key, because in terms of total tackles, five of the top seven tacklers for the Hoosiers are defensive backs.
In addition to being relentless as tacklers, the secondary has been very opportunistic, forcing the majority of turnovers for the defense. Indiana has a whopping 16 interceptions on the season, and while some of that is luck, the defensive backs deserve a great deal of credit. Jaylin Williams, Tiawan Mullen and Jamar Johnson specifically have been great at taking the ball away this season, as all three have at least three interceptions.
Beyond the secondary, do it all linebacker Micah McFadden is one of the team leaders for the defense though, and he leads the team with 43 tackles. The junior from Florida is a critical cog in Wommack’s defense, as he also leads the team in tackles for loss, is second on the team in sacks and also has two interceptions. McFadden is definitely a player to know where he is at on the field at all times given how impactful he can be.
One other essential playmaker for the Indiana defense is senior defensive lineman Jerome Johnson. The 6-foot-4, 300 pound Mississippi native has proven to be the most disruptive player up front for the Hoosiers, with four sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception.
Wisconsin has dominated Indiana in recent history, winning by an average 36 points the past 10 meetings, but the two teams have not played since 2017. Indiana head coach Tom Allen has done a phenomenal job of steadily improving the talent level in Bloomington over the past three seasons, making this matchup very different than the previous 10.
The Badgers will have their hands full with a very stout Indiana defense, and with the weapons that Indiana has on offense. Wisconsin will need to play much better than they did against Northwestern if they hope to make it 11 wins in a row.